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Author Topic: Alternative Beginnings  (Read 3690 times)

Maximum Fu

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Alternative Beginnings
« on: February 28, 2006, 03:01:39 PM »
I recently read a Dungeon article that talked about alternative beginnings to an adventure or campaign that defy the "you are sitting in a tavern..." archetype.

One of the ones I liked most was "You wake up in a bare cell.  You have been sleeping there since the time of your arrest late last evening".  The point, I gathered, was to dislodge the players out of their comfort zone and get them thinking about survival from the very outset.

What are some other non-standard, creative beginnings to adventures that we can bring to our games?

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theblackknight13

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Alternative Beginnings
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2006, 03:05:01 PM »
In my ravenloft game it started off with a mutiny and players(Ex-officers) being stranded on a desert island.
 

Nicephorus

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Alternative Beginnings
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2006, 03:30:09 PM »
One that I've used is that they are all delegates/ambassadors to a meeting.  Things happen at the meeting, they must fix it or their reputations are on the line.  It doesn't assume that PCs know each other in advance.  

The group can all be co-travellers on the same ship/train thrown together by circumstance by shipwreck, a killer on the ship, etc.  I have a one shot in my mind that starts at a fair - things happen and several people fall into a giant sinkhole that fills in after them.  They are in a previously unknown underground complex and must find an alternative way out.

The co-prisoner idea is ok but it's been used a bunch.

You can also go the opposite way, that everyone is in the same organization, such as thieves' guild or government agency.  This works best if everyone makes their characters together and decides on their relationships.

Enkhidu

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Alternative Beginnings
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2006, 03:42:56 PM »
Quote from: Nicephorus
...You can also go the opposite way, that everyone is in the same organization, such as thieves' guild or government agency.  This works best if everyone makes their characters together and decides on their relationships.


My favorite variation on this was one where the PC's started out as a bunch of teens who had all grown up together in a small town. The GM had even gone as far as to make a big random table full of memorable events from their collective childhoods. Things like "This PC beat up this other PC when they were 6, and they've been friends ever since."

Small town beginnings are some of the best vehicles, in my opinion.
 

BillyBeanbag

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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2006, 03:52:18 PM »
I had an epic campaign where the characters were all related in some fashion to the Famous adventuring party that used to call a small-town home... and of course their parent's deeds would come back to haunt them. :)
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Krishnath

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« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2006, 03:58:09 PM »
I like the shipwreck idea, and intend to use it eventually.

Basically, I will have the PC's wake up on a foreign shore of some unknown continent. They do not know each other, save that they where passangers on the same ship.
They are on a beach in what appears to be a secluded bay, the beach lies at the foot of some tall cliffs, the cliffs seem impossible to climb, but in the distance a clear path goes from the beach to the top of the cliffs. Near the Pc's they can see the minimum equipment they need to fulfill their class role (A cleric would find a holy symbol of his deity and maybe a quarterstaff, a wizard would find a spellbook (not necessarily hers), and a spellcomponent pouch, a fighter would find a melee weapon and a wooden shield, and so on) and a bunch of unopened crates that have been washed ashore with them. Before they have a chance to examine the crates however, they are jumped by a ground of weak mooks (goblins, orcs, whatever, I intend to use redcaps, but then again, my PC's will be around level 5 or so).
Once the mooks are disposed off, the pc's can open the crates and equip themselves better. Once they follow the path up, they will be standing on a long road that follows the cliffside closely. On the other side of the road, a large forest grows, and a short distance away, they will see a large hut with a sign that shows that one can buy (and sell) equipment there. The house is to large to be that of a human, and once the PC's enter, they will find the shopkeeper is a civilized troll. Once they overcome language barriers (shouldn't be hard, the troll speaks Giant, Draconic, Fey, and Elvish) they will learn that they are no where near any place they can find a way home, infact they're not even on the material plane anymore, but rather in the realm of faerie.

Where the PC's go from there, is up to them. As long as they remember to stay on the road and never accept gifts from faeries...
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fett527

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Alternative Beginnings
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2006, 04:07:34 PM »
Quote from: Enkhidu
My favorite variation on this was one where the PC's started out as a bunch of teens who had all grown up together in a small town. The GM had even gone as far as to make a big random table full of memorable events from their collective childhoods. Things like "This PC beat up this other PC when they were 6, and they've been friends ever since."

Small town beginnings are some of the best vehicles, in my opinion.
It's certainly worked the best for us.
He's no good to me dead.- Fett

Megamieuwsel

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« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2006, 04:17:47 PM »
It depends ;
I like to work with my players on this one , but prefer to have them start seperately and (sometimes)at different locations , then "play" them together.

It's a damn lot of work , but very rewarding when it pans out.

Humanophile

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Alternative Beginnings
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2006, 05:52:53 PM »
The tavern is a good compromise for when the players would rather eschew backstory and get straight to the action.  Here are your introductions, let's not waste orc-cleaving time on pretty words.

If the players want more than that, I find that a lot of the alternative beginnings seem intended to throw the players into situations where they have very limited resources and experience in the setting.  That's fine once or twice, but can become frustrating rather quickly.  If the players have any interest in backstory, however, it's often much easier before play to have them help decide how everyone knows everyone, and why they're all out there risking their necks in the first place.
 

ColonelHardisson

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Alternative Beginnings
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2006, 08:28:17 PM »
I started one where the PCs were in a hobgoblin prison wagon being hauled back as slaves in a caravan. The caravan and hobgoblin guard force were ambushed by a small guerilla force of elves and Tallfellow halflings. The PCs had to fight their way out, which was tough as they were unarmed and unarmored. The fighter-types jumped the nearest hobgoblins and wrestled away their weapons and armor. It was pretty exciting, actually, as the players were really worried about being at such a disadvantage, and everything was fast-paced. They had little time to think. So when it was all over, they really appreciated what they had.
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cranberry

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« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2006, 08:54:20 PM »
We had one DnD game where we all basically got kidnapped and thrown on board a ship.  None of our characters knew each other prior, and the ship's captain made us do a job for him in order to let us go.  Then, once THAT was done, we were stranded far, far from home and even getting back was adventurous unto itself.  (Similar to the shipwrecked idea.)
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Cyberzombie

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Alternative Beginnings
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2006, 12:52:49 AM »
One I'd like to try some time is where the players get given character sheets for some high-powered badasses.  They play for a while, then get munched by the BBEG.  Then the actual game starts with their real characters, who deal with the  mess that their predecessors left.
 

kryyst

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Alternative Beginnings
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2006, 06:34:39 AM »
In my current Warhammer campaign I started it out with the characters all being part of the same military unit in some capacity, either as actually soldiers or as part of the baggage train.  Some of them had their own back histories that they were also wanting to pursue, which was fine.  The army had only been together for 6 months by the time the story picked up.  When the story began they were all that was left of their main unit and were trying to make it back to the rest of the main army.  It got them all on the adventure together and heading in the right direction.

Plus as new people joined the game it was fairly easy to just add them in along the route and have them as part of the same army, they just broke off at different spots along the way.
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willpax

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« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2006, 08:38:45 AM »
I actually prefer starts that don't involve compromised or threatened PCs:

1. The PCs have been hired/are members of the household of some noble, giving them a reason to work together but allowing for backstory variation;

2. The PCs have all been having the same mysterious dreams, which lead them all to journey to some point that is equally unfamiliar to all of them;

3. the PCs all share a common allegiance (to an ideal, a religion, or whatever) which leads them to work together;

4. In extreme cases, I have been known to make up 8-10 PCs, complete with background, and simply allow the players to choose one from the group. Although it seems rather restrictive, I've often had my players identify with characters given to them in this way quite well, because each character already fits the world so well.
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Dr_Avalanche

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Alternative Beginnings
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2006, 10:01:52 AM »
I quite like the very first thing the characters are involved in be in media res. If you put all the characters in an action sequence, then you can start negotiating why they are there, rather than come to the stumbling block when a player puts down his heels and says "my character wouldn't do that, it's not how I envision him". If the deed is already done, all you need to agree on is a motivation.
 
Of course, like any GM technique it's not good to abuse or overdo the above. The GM has to be sensitive to what kind of scenarios would be non-negotiable. Most players wouldn't agree to start a scene with the GM saying "so, you've just raped and killed the innocent woman you met in the tavern earlier in the evening. Now, why did you do that?", just to take a rather extreme scenario.